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Inspiration from Wisdom begins with Wonder and Ungrading

October 1, 2010
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I’m totally inspired by this post about “How I’m ungrading my kids” at Wisdom begins with Wonder.

I’ve been doing SBG for a year and a half now, and though I really like it, and consider it a vast improvement over the old style grading, I think my least reflective students can quickly replace the race to accumulate points with a “race to get 3’s on every concept”; in fact, I have a bunch of them say as much in weekly feedback. I still think this is against the spirit of what we’re trying to do, and what grades should be, as flawed indicators of learning, rather than goals in themselves.

So Mr. Rice has inspired me. My kids have already taken a bunch of assessments (2 full unit assessments, 4 mini assessments, and a number of little re-assessments, etc in extra help). I’ve been scanning all of this student work and saving it (love the copier that can scan a stack of papers in 20 seconds, hate the fact that it chokes on flimsy notebook paper while duplexing). I’ve also been working on a filemaker database to keep track of all of this, but I still haven’t gotten it to where I want it, and so I haven’t put in all of these assignments, yet.

Here’s where the inspiration comes in. Trying to follow Mr. Rice’s model, I’m going to have the kids grade themselves. I’m going to have them collect and record their scores on every concept on a form that I give to them, and then reflect on those scores, and give themselves a grade (based partially on a scale I will give them that assigns certain standards as core—required to pass, and intermediate—required for an ‘A’). Then, I’ll have all the kids meet with me individually during a free period, and we’ll discuss their grade and decide together what they should get. (The last time I tried something like this many years ago, I found the kids were ruthless on themselves, so it will be interesting to see what happens).

I’m super excited about giving this a try. I think it really has the chance to be the final flourish that makes SBG change the way my kids look at grades. Of course, I need to design the form and scaffold the presentation, and maybe it’s time for my discussion about the history of grades. More on this in the future.

One more note to myself: Incorporate some of Jerred Kruse’s excellent language about self assessment into this assignment.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2010 11:58 pm


    It is a tremendous compliment to have another teacher tell me that I have influence their teaching positively. The only higher compliment I can think of as a teacher is to have a student thank me for inspiration!

    Not to push you too far too fast but the next challenge I would present to you is to bring the students in on the designing of the criteria by which they will self assess.

    • October 3, 2010 12:24 am

      This is a great point, and something I’m thinking about. Since we are a bit of an academic pressure cooker, my kids really like to be told what to do, how to do it, and exactly what is required for an ‘A’. They really don’t like open-ended projects where they have to figure out all these things on their own, mainly because it takes too much time and the results are too uncertain. But one of my long term projects is to begin working on this with them, but it’s going to be a long-term project.

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